I have never been left so confused after watching a movie. Given , I haven’t watched a lot of movies, but throughout the movie and even after I had these kinds of expressions:
With no knowledge of the Chinese culture/ history, it was all very foreign to me (even the genre of wu xia films!) and I could not understand the film (In addition to the names such as Nameless, Flying Snow and Broken Sword)… Furthermore, I have always avoided watching war and fighting films as I do not like them. However, I must say it was visually pleasing during most of the scenes (fighting scenes). The mise-en-scène, the use of colors, it was very beautiful, which was what kept me watching the film (other than it being an assignment haha). The man behind Hero, Zhang Yimou, is China’s most celebrated director. His films Hero, Raise the Red Lantern and Ju Dou were nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film Oscars.
Hero uses flashbacks as a main narrative tool. After reflecting on what I’ve seen, these flashbacks allowed us viewers to see the (true) main story through three different versions. In the ancient era of no ‘live’ breaking news, photographs or video, viewers were only allowed to experience Nameless’ story through his own words (no concrete evidence).
This film focused mainly on the ‘fighting’ scenes, with the use of dramatic camera angles, colors and slow motion. To someone who does not enjoy fighting scenes/ has not the experience with wu xia films, all of the moves/ walking on water did not make any sense to me! What was even more confusing to me was that many of the fights happened in the character’s mind. What I’ve learnt is that a physical fight is not needed to overcome their opponent, out of respect.
Of course, one cannot go without commenting on the beautiful colors depicted in the difference scenes of the film. Here is a moviebarcode of Hero, which shows the main colors of the film through simplified colors:
As Zhang Yimou and the cinematographer, Christopher Doyle said in an interview that the “choice of colors was aesthetic, not symbolic” (read the actual interview here!), one can only imagine and create a personal meaning for the different colored scenes (what do you think of the use of colors?). The effort put into the scenes are very evident, with the details in each scene carefully crafted. For example, in the forest scene, the leaves in that scene had to be chosen one by one based on the exact shade, and the other shades of leaves will be placed at the back. Also, during the fight scene at the lake, they could only film at certain hours in the day, otherwise the lighting would get all different… and it is only during certain times that the waters of the lake would be very still. The dedication of the team, and attention to detail is amazing. Something interesting to note is that Christopher Doyle was also the cinematographer of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs (2002)
In conclusion… wow. I definitely did not enjoy Hero, but I certainly would not say that it is a bad movie. It was more of just an art piece for me, visually stunning, but I could not connect with any of the characters or the story line. It is not a bad movie, it’s just not for me. 🙂